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My favorite tip for being able to afford to travel well.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How do you afford to travel so much?” In all honesty, it’s a lot cheaper than you would imagine (most people think of vacation budgets, not daily life budgets), and I have a number of tricks for making it even easier and more enjoyable. This is my favorite one that most people don’t consider.

Just another exotic locale.

Save money by spending more.

Yesterday I was talking to someone about how I travel the world with everything I own in one little backpack, and I got one of the standard responses, “I could never be prepared for everything with that.” She proceeded to list off 20 pairs of jeans, a big list of medical “just in case” things, and completely different outfits every day of the year. She was so freaked out on one trip when she discovered she only packed one pair of jeans that she immediately went out to buy more.

And somehow she doesn’t see the irony of the fact that she’s never prepared. She has to buy even more things last minute because she has so much stuff that she can’t bring with her. She is gushing money by spending it on a million little things that never actually help because she never has any of it with her.

I just spent $200 on a single pair of pants. Considering you can get perfectly solid pairs for $50 or less, that’s a lot to justify. But for me, it’s easy. (More about the amazing pants later.) Because I have such limited space, each thing I buy is going to displace something else and it has to be the best possible version it can be; durable, versatile, and useful. I only have one pair of pants and one pair of jeans, and this gets me through every possible scenario, and they get a lot of use. Compare that to her 20+ pairs of jeans for over $1000 total (that she likely never uses) and you quickly understand how much money I’m saving by buying the best possible things for more money.

Climbing in style.

You know that dresser that’s been handed down through your family for generations? You know, the solid mahogany one that is gorgeous and works just as well as the day it was made with no maintenance. The one with history that brings a smile to your face. Now think about that coffee table you got on sale at IKEA. The one made of compressed tree flakes that a corner broke off of when you bumped into it, so you repaired it with a Sharpie. The one that you could toss over your head with one hand if you wanted, but you debate whether it’s worth it to move it to a new place or just get a new one.

That is the difference between paying for quality and looking for the cheapest price possible. Typically, paying 50% more for something gives you something that is a joy to use and lasts five times as long. Finding the cheapest possible option gives you something that doesn’t quite do what it advertised, and starts falling apart a week after you getting it, quickly causing you to spend even more money to bandage together something you never really wanted to the first place so it can keep hobbling along doing not what you wanted.

Why would you put yourself through wearing ill-fitting, itchy clothes or getting frustrated at a computer because it is failing you yet again? There is an expression, “Buy it right or buy it twice.” I think this expression severely underestimates, and doesn’t consider the fact that you have to use the piece of crap you just bought so cheaply.

By doing a little research before you buy and getting the amazing new thing that is genuinely amazing, you are supporting the small people who did all the work to make these amazing things. Would you rather support them or the weasels who rush in after the hard work has been done and cut as many corners as possible to make it cheaper?

Everything I own!

I’m not saying you should spend lots of money all the time. Be selective about what you buy. By having everything I own in one carry-on backpack, I have limited space for everything I own. This means every purchase I have gets carefully researched and mulled over, because every single thing I buy has to earn its keep, lasting a long time through various situations that can wear down lesser things quickly. You don’t need to limit your space in order to follow this philosophy, you just need to change how you think about purchases.

The next time you are thinking about getting that jumbo pack of socks in a plastic bag that will be itchy, fall down within minutes, and have holes within a few weeks, think about spending more than the cheapest possible option to get some that are buttery smooth and will last you years into the future. You can get something high quality that will make you happy every time you use it, or you can end up paying more to keep replacing the same cheap crap you hate to use. Don’t be afraid to spend a lot on things you will actually use, then use them all the time. It will be a little painful at first, but in the long run you will save a ton of money and only have high-quality things that make you smile every time you use them.

P.S. Those pants I mentioned at the top? Outlier Climbers. They are classy enough to be solid dress pants, stretchy enough to rock climb or do yoga in, and durable enough to last for years. Some days I never want to take them off because they are so comfortable. Go. Get some. I don’t get a penny for recommending them, they are just that good, and I want to see them thrive.


  1. Leslie says:

    So . . what do you do if someone asks you to a formal dinner or you need to attend an event where a jacket and tie is required? Do you rent a suit . . . and I’m stipulating that you don’t have access to a friend in your same exact size within a reasonable distance to borrow clothes/shoes from. How about if you end up in freezing cold weather and you need a jacket? I’m looking at your clothes and they look casual for every day wear . . but that doesn’t fit every need and occasion. Just wondering.

  2. Chris Dame says:

    That picture is a year old now, and my wardrobe has changed significantly since then. I will need to post an update to show everything I have now, but until then, suffice to say that I am covered for a formal/suit event, and it all still fits in my backpack.

    If something very fancy were to come up that required a tux, yes, I would rent one. They would be anywhere I required one, and it would be far cheaper than trying to haul one everywhere with me, and have much less upkeep.

  3. […] their bodies?  Well now you can get a little insight into the world traveler mindset through this write-up from Chris Dame, the man who can fit all his worldly possessions in a backpack. – Going Green: […]

  4. Graham says:

    Still recommend these pants after some years?

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